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Connecting the Digital Dots of Social Insight

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Executives sometimes struggle to buy into the value of social insight. Talkwalker and Porter Novelli made the case for a new mentality.

Even if a social media team has “a clear vision of what [it] can do with social listening,” Talkwalker’s Arnaud Steinkuhler is aware that it’s not always easy to get the proverbial powers-that-be on board. Alongside Porter Novelli’s Peter Tomlinson, Steinkuhler sought to outline key methods to get C-suite executives to buy into the message that social intelligence can change the way that business is done—and not just for the digital team either.

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“Social listening is not only about creating better leads, better communication, but it’s also about having a great customer experience,” Steinkuhler insisted. Tomlinson mentioned that in earlier times, his team would painstakingly plan presentations to sell clients on what they could do in every area of the organization, but the vision he and his team were charged with crafting got overwhelming. Social intelligence, he found, made the vision more manageable. With all that said, however, there are key needs that must be addressed in order to make this often unfamiliar strategy palatable to higher level executives.

Here are the primary insights and takeaways:

  • Crafting Common Currency Through Collaboration
  • Social Listening Must Be Embedded in Your Organization
  • Develop and Implement a Process that Values a “Unified Framework”

Crafting Common Currency Through Collaboration

A significant portion of Tomlinson and Steinkuhler’s time together focused on a need for this work to be collaborative. As Steinkuhler put it,

You have to design a product correctly. You have to go to market with meaningful ideas. You have to have great creative. You have to have good monitoring of your campaigns. In the end, you have to deliver good customer support, good care service. Everyone has to be involved.

Tomlinson confirmed this as he discussed the process for his team in building a social listening strategy. For Porter Novelli, it included convening the “digital transformation” team, 12 digital specialists from all across the company who could weigh in on decisions regarding tools, adoption processes, and information sharing. As a result, several disparate data tracking and analysis systems were eventually consolidated into one.

Embed It in the Organization

Another key part of Porter Novelli’s strategy for social intelligence: changing the way they addressed a need for it with clients. Tomlinson mentioned that several clients had approached them with the goal of using social listening to monitor and resolve a crisis. Their response? “Social listening isn’t something you can turn on and off; it’s something that’s embedded in the organization.

In fact, Steinkuhler identified early in the session twelve different ways that social intelligence can advance an organization’s goals. By talking about the resulting data and its potential usage in these twelve areas—falling into general buckets of Protect, Measure, and Promote—it can help to dispel the illusion that (a) social listening is all about monitoring vanity metrics, and (b) that real, strategy-affecting insight can’t be pulled from these sources. What we can get from this data goes “over and above what the client tells us,” Tomlinson noted. Convincing clients of that by developing integrated frameworks for data collection, reporting, and analysis, along with clear benchmarks of current performance and anticipated future performance, can all play a massive role in moving the needle toward action.

Develop and Implement a Process that Values a “Unified Framework”

A pair of questions at the tail end of the session offered some additional insight into how the changing landscape of social might impact the success of social intelligence efforts. First, the fair question arose of how such efforts might work in light of restricted access to user data (between the advent of GDPR and forthcoming options to clear history or restrict third party access). While it is a valid concern, Steinkuhler optimistically offered that even with gaps in available data, “what matters is, are you still able to answer your questions? Obviously there are some gaps, but it’s not an obstacle to what you’re trying to achieve usually.”

And a second question about influencer data allowed Tomlinson to address the flexibility that collecting data can truly have. Whereas a lot of data is mined with tools like Talkwalker, the tool is also agile enough to allow supplemental data to be added for analysis—such as the online panel research that Porter Novelli conducts to evaluate influencers. This process helps mitigate the bad rap that influencer marketing has at times earned, while also allowing that data to seamlessly exist alongside other more quantitative data. By developing and implementing a process that values a “unified framework,” they can craft and maintain a strategy that appeals to practitioners and executives alike.

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